George Selwyn (bishop of Lichfield)

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George Augustus Selwyn
Selwyn, George Augustus (1809-1878), by Mason & Co..jpg
Photo by Mason & Co
First Bishop of New Zealand
Born 5 April 1809
Church Row, Hampstead
Died 11 April 1878
Bishop's Palace, Lichfield
Honored in
Anglican Communion
Feast 11 April

George Augustus Selwyn (5 April 1809 – 11 April 1878) was the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand. He was Bishop of New Zealand (which included Melanesia) from 1841 to 1858. His diocese was then subdivided and Selwyn was Primate of New Zealand from 1858 to 1868. Returning to Britain, Selwyn served as Bishop of Lichfield from 1868 to 1878. Educational institutions named in his honour include Selwyn College, Cambridge (1882), Selwyn College, Otago (1893), and Selwyn houses at Kings School, Auckland and Wellesley College, Wellington, New Zealand.

Early years[edit]

Selwyn was born at Church Row, Hampstead, the second son of William Selwyn (1775–1855) and of Laetitia Frances Kynaston. At the age of seven he went to the preparatory school of Dr Nicholas at Ealing, where the future Cardinal Newman and his brother Francis were among his schoolfellows. He then went to Eton, where he distinguished himself both as scholar and as athlete, and knew William Ewart Gladstone. In 1827 he became scholar of St John's College, Cambridge. He came out second in the Classical Tripos in 1831, graduating B.A. 1831, M.A. 1834, and D.D. per lit. reg. 1842, and was a fellow of St John's from 1833–1840.[1] He was a member of the Cambridge crew which competed in the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race at Henley on Thames in 1829, losing to Oxford.[2]

After graduating, Selwyn worked at Eton, becoming assistant master and tutoring the sons of Lord Powis. In 1833 he was ordained deacon, and in 1834, a priest; he acted as curate to the Rev. Isaac Gossett, vicar of Windsor from 1833 until 1841. Both at Eton and at Windsor, Selwyn displayed much organising talent. In 1841, after an episcopal council held at Lambeth had recommended the appointment of a bishop for New Zealand, Charles James Blomfield (the Bishop of London) offered the New Zealand post to Selwyn.

Bishop in New Zealand[edit]

Consecrated at Lambeth on 17 October 1841, Bishop Selwyn embarked for his new missionary diocese on 26 December. He appointed William Charles Cotton as his chaplain. The 23 member missionary party set sail from Plymouth late in December 1841 on board the barque Tomatin. In addition to their luggage, the missionaries brought various animals and four hives of bees. On the outbound voyage, Selwyn studied the Māori language with the help of a Māori boy returning from England, and was able to preach in that language immediately on his arrival. He also acquired enough seamanship to enable him to be his own sailing master among the dangerous waters of the Pacific.[3] In April 1842 the Tomatin arrived in Sydney.

The boat hit a rock on landing and, rather than wait for its repair, some of the party, including Selwyn and Cotton, set sail for New Zealand on the brig Bristolian on 19 May. They arrived in Auckland on 30 May. After spending some time as guests of Captain William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand, Selwyn and Cotton set sail for the Bay of Islands on the schooner Wave on 12 June, arriving on 20 June.[4] Amongst the party was a clerk, William Bambridge, who was also an accomplished artist and was later to become photographer to Queen Victoria.[5]

Selwyn had decided to set up residence at the Waimate Mission Station, some 15 miles (24 km) inland from Paihia where the Church Missionary Society had established a settlement 11 years earlier.[6] On 5 July 1842 Selwyn set out on a six-month tour of his diocese leaving the Mission Station in the care of Sarah, his wife, and Cotton. By October 1843 more missionaries had arrived at Waimate, and Selwyn, accompanied by Cotton, embarked on his second tour, this time to mission stations and native settlements in the southern part of North Island. Their journey was made partly by canoe but mainly by walking, often for large distances over difficult and dangerous terrain. Part way through the tour Selwyn decided to split the party into two sections with one section led by himself and the other by Cotton. After being away for nearly three months, Cotton arrived back at Waimate early in 1844 and Selwyn returned a few weeks later.[7]

Later in 1844 Selwyn decided to move some 160 miles (257 km) south to Tamaki near Auckland where he bought 450 acres (180 ha) of land, giving it the name of Bishop's Auckland. The party left on 23 October and arrived in Auckland on 17 November.[8] During the first six months of 1845 Selwyn was away for much of the time and management of the settlement, and particularly the schools, fell to Cotton.[9]

Bishop Selwyn clashed with Archdeacon Henry Williams, the leader of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in New Zealand. Land purchases by Williams became controversial at the time of the Flagstaff War and when Williams refused to give up the land, he was dismissed from the CMS.[10] However Bishop Selwyn reconsidered the position he had taken and in 1854 Williams was reinstated to the CMS after Bishop Selwyn supported his return to membership.[11]

Bishop Selwyn's see was an early foundation in the series of colonial sees organised by the English church, and his organisation and government of his diocese proved of special importance. In six years he completed a thorough visitation of the whole of New Zealand, and in December 1847 began a series of voyages to the Pacific Islands, which were included in his diocese by a clerical error in his letters patent. His letters and journals descriptive of these journeyings through Melanesia present the reader with a vivid picture of his versatility, courage, and energy. His voyages and the administrative work described below resulted in 1861 in the consecration of John Coleridge Patteson as Archbishop of Melanesia.

Selwyn elaborated a scheme for the self-government of his diocese. In 1854 he visited England to secure authorisation to subdivide his diocese, as well as permission for the church of New Zealand to manage its own affairs by a "general synod" of bishops, presbyters, and laity. His addresses before the University of Cambridge produced a great impression. On his return to New Zealand four bishops were consecrated, two to the Northern and two to the Southern Island, and the legal constitution of the church was finally established.

The first general synod was held in 1859. Selwyn's constitution of the Anglican Church of New Zealand greatly influenced the development of the colonial church, and has affected in many ways the church at home. By 1855, the New Zealand wars interrupted the progress of Christianity among the Māori. Selwyn was a keen critic of the unjust and reckless land acquisition practices of the New Zealand Company, and was misunderstood by Englishmen and Maoris alike. His efforts to supply Christian ministrations to the troops on both sides were indefatigable.

Final years[edit]

Memorial to George Augustus Selwyn in Lichfield Cathedral

In 1867, Selwyn visited England a second time to participate at the first Pan-Anglican synod of the Lambeth Conference, an institution which his own work had done much to bring about. While in England Selwyn accepted, with much reluctance,[12] the offer of the see of Lichfield.

Selwyn was enthroned as the ninety-first Bishop of Lichfield on 9 January 1868. Later that year, he paid a farewell visit to New Zealand. He governed Lichfield till his death, aged 69, on 11 April 1878. Earlier that year, Bishop Selwyn had consecrated a class of deacons, one of whom, John Roberts, is honoured as a saint in the Episcopal Church of the USA for his missionary work in the Bahamas and Wyoming. Selwyn died at the Bishop's Palace, Lichfield, and was buried in the grounds of Lichfield Cathedral.

Legacy[edit]

Selwyn College, Cambridge, was erected by subscription in memory of this Bishop Selwyn, and was incorporated by royal charter on 13 September 1882. The bishop's portrait by George Richmond, R.A., belongs to St John's College, Cambridge.

Personal life[edit]

Mrs Sarah Harriet Selwyn was born Sarah Harriet Richardson

Selwyn married Sarah Harriet Richardson, the only daughter of Sir John Richardson on 25 June 1839. They had two sons, William, prebendary of Hereford, and John Richardson Selwyn, Bishop of Melanesia. John Selwyn, also rowed for Cambridge in the Boat Race (graduating in 1866) and later became the second Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge, after retiring as Bishop of Melanesia because of illness in 1892. The Church of the Province of Melanesia honours this younger Bishop Selwyn (1844-1898) on its calendar for February 14.

Selwyn was brother of Sir Charles Jasper Selwyn, and of William Selwyn (1806–1875). His great uncle, Major Charles Selwyn (died 1749), was an associate of General Oglethorpe, and a prominent benefactor of the church in Jamaica early in the eighteenth century.[13]

His grandson George August Selwyn is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge; he died in 1912, aged 16.

Writings[edit]

Besides numerous sermons, letters, and charges, Selwyn was the author of:

  1. Are Cathedral Institutions useless ? A Practical Answer to this Question, addressed to W. E. Gladstone, Esq., M.P., 1838; written in answer to an inquiry from Mr. Gladstone.
  2. Sermons preached chiefly in the Church of St John the Baptist, New Windsor, privately circulated, 1842.
  3. Letters to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel from the Bishop of New Zealand, with extracts from his Visitation Journals; printed in the society's series entitled Church in the Colonies, Nos. 4, 7, 8, 12 and 20.
  4. Verbal Analysis of the Holy Bible, intended to facilitate the Translation of the Holy Scriptures into Foreign Languages, 1855.

His papers for the period 1831–72 are stored in the Archives of Selwyn College, Cambridge.[1]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Selwyn, George Alexander (SLWN826GA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Walter Bradford Woodgate Boating 1888
  3. ^ Smith, pp. 36–45.
  4. ^ Smith, pp. 56–65.
  5. ^ "William Bambridge (1819–1879) – Extract from Auckland Waikato Historical Journal No 41, Sep 1982". bambridge.org. Retrieved 8 February 2008. 
  6. ^ Smith, pp. 65–66.
  7. ^ Smith, pp. 114–122
  8. ^ Smith, pp. 134–135.
  9. ^ Smith, p. 147.
  10. ^ Rogers, Lawrence M. (1973). Te Wiremu: A Biography of Henry Williams. Pegasus Press. 
  11. ^ Carleton, Hugh (1874). "Appendix to Vol. II.". The Life of Henry Williams. Early New Zealand Books University of Auckland Library. 
  12. ^ "Selwyn, George Augustus", Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  13. ^ ANDERSON, Colonial Church, iii. 544–5

References[edit]

  • The Selwyn churches of Auckland by C R Knight (1972, Reed, Wellington)
Attribution

Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, Arthur R. (2006). William Charles Cotton MA: Priest, Missionary and Bee Master. Birkenhead: Countyvise. ISBN 978-1-901231-81-6. 
  • Henry William Tucker, Memoir of the Life and Episcopate of George Augustus Selwyn: Bishop of New Zealand, 1841–1869; Bishop of Lichfield, 1867–1878, 2 vols., William Wells Gardner, 1879.
  • Evans, J.H. (1964). Churchman militant: George Augustus Selwyn,Bishop of New Zealand and Lichfield. Allen & Unwin. p. 298. ISBN 0-04-922006-3. 

External links[edit]

Anglican Communion titles
New title Bishop of New Zealand
1841–1868
Succeeded by
William Garden Cowie
New title Primate of New Zealand
1858–1868
Succeeded by
Henry Harper
Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Lonsdale
Bishop of Lichfield
1868–1878
Succeeded by
William Dalrymple Maclagan